At some point in my mid-20s, my lower back started to hurt. In hindsight, it was the first of many clichéd signs that I’m getting older. But it’s not all bad, my professional development and improved emotional maturity means I have more disposable income to splash on sneakers at full RRP, as opposed to the back wall outlet fodder that dominated my youth. Simultaneously, this growing up thing means my taste also seems to be ageing. Now closer to 30 than 20, I’ve become acutely aware of changes to my footwear preferences – in addition to changes to the flexibility of my lumbar spine.
I’m Beginning to Show My Age (When it Comes to Sneakers)
Date: January 23 2020
By: Minh Vuong
Avoiding a Narrow Path
During the prime of my adolescence, I’d bash around in a pair of retro Air Max, oblivious to the midsole paint cracking and chipping with every step. This was the 2000s, after all. However, after wearing old-school sneakers throughout my teens and 20s, fatigue eventually settled in, leaving me with shin splints and battered feet. Eventually, the straw broke the camel’s back when my narrow Air Jordan 4s rubbed my pinky toe raw. I needed something with support and comfort. I was working in footwear retail at the time, and picked up a pair of New Balance 990v4s on staff discount. The improvement was instantaneous. NB isn’t just for ‘supermodels in London and dads in Ohio’ – they’re for ageing farts like me with f’ed up feet.
Less Quantity, More Quality
After the heart-stopping realisation of my mortality and swarming sneaker stash, I frantically began clearing out the collection. Of course, as a lifelong lover of shoes, the itch that is never quite scratched lingers. So, when I do feel like buying something, I seek out sneakers that will last a lifetime – not that I’ve got long to go. The rapid reintroduction of New Balance into my rotation got me up to speed with their primo Made in USA line, after a wasted youth hunting rare Made in England 1500s. At retail, 990s might cost almost double something from Nike or adidas, but they’re also bound to last twice as long. Don’t even get me started on colourways... how did I once wear that rainbow vomit on my feet? Give me beige, blue and grey any day of the week.
Don’t Mock My Moccasins
Many sneakerheads have decried every single Air Max and New Balance retro for not being true enough to the now-unwearable originals – myself included. I was once quick to pick up the Internet pitchfork and put on my Toebox Police badge. Then, I got into Clarks Wallabees after a Wu-Tang Clan binge. Distinctly cliff-toed, the folded and stitched lip remains a polarising look for some, despite the silhouette’s 50-plus-year history. Me, I’ve grown to love the wriggle room for my toes, and the closer-to-30-than-20 smart casual look. Now, I hang around waiting for bargain basement clearance prices on visvim FBTs, so I can look like a low-rent John Mayer.
I’m not just drinking the Kool-Aid – I’m swimming in it and distributing it to anyone who needs podiatric enlightenment. I used to think the two-strap Arizona with that cork footbed was reserved only for those destined to shepherd humanity towards the rapture. But you can now call me converted: they’re comfortable! The Boston clog is the preferred choice of hospitality professionals globally, and has been the low-key collaborative king with the likes of Concepts and Kith. Birkenstock even had the cojones to turn down a Supreme collaboration! Now, that’s a power move that only mature minds can make. So, find some Birks on my feet to match my boss attitude.
No to the Bow
My lingering lumbar pain means bending over to tie shoelaces is becoming increasingly difficult. So, I’m always looking for ways to put shoes on that eschew the need to bend over for the sake of a bow. Velcro’s good, and elastic works well too – Birkenstocks don’t even have laces. And the simplest method is as per Sneaker Freaker conventions: I keep my laces loose. Sometimes, I’ll even tuck the laces on my GEL-Lyte IIIs into the sides and just slip them on! I’m not ashamed to admit this: its creator, Shigeyuki Mitsui, is quoted with incorporating the split tongue for hands-free fitting. Once my pension is high enough to get some Nike Adapt sneakers, I’ll be living in the knot-free future.
I'm looking forward to my twilight years being filled with comfortable kicks and fuss-free footwear. For now, it's time to lean back on my rocking office chair and count the days until the 990v6 is announced.